Imagining fatherhood: Young Australian men’s perspectives on fathering

5 min


Little research has been conducted on men’s attitudes and expectations for having children and being parents, particularly for young men.

Several factors have contributed to this including the widespread belief that children are the primary concern of the mother while the fathers’ contribution is predominantly financial.

This exclusion from research has led to an incomplete understanding of men’s perspectives on having children and being parents, and it perpetuates stereotypes of men’s roles in families while overemphasising women’s roles in childrearing and demographic change (e.g., average family size, maternal age with first baby).


The authors aimed to understand the subjective meaning of having children and of fatherhood to male university students, and to explore the social and political context within which these young men spoke about fatherhood.


Participants were recruited from an undergraduate psychology research participant scheme at the University of Queensland, Brisbane. Eligibility criteria included men who were 18 to 25 years old, single (not married or cohabitating), and who were not fathers.

To minimise self-selection due to interest in fatherhood the study was advertised as a ‘Men’s Attitudes Study.’

Semi-structured interviews were used to elicit men’s views on having children and fatherhood; all interviews began with the question, ‘Can you describe how you would like your life to be like when you are 40 years old?’ The interviews were transcribed and analysed thematically.


Sixteen men aged 18 to 22 years, enrolled in a variety of degree programs, comprised the final sample. Participants predominantly identified as Australian; two added that they had Indian and Sri Lankan ethnicity and one identified as New Zealander.


Contrary to gender stereotypes, the men in this study imagined their families in some detail and considered fatherhood as being fundamental to their future happiness.

The findings of this study suggest that research and policy needs to include the perspectives of men rather than focusing on women as the sole drivers of family and birth trends.

Further, government policy and organisational practice needs to recognise men’s role in the family and acknowledge the tensions they face in fulfilling the roles of breadwinner and involved father.

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